但丁750歲了：Dante Turns Seven Hundred and Fifty
George HOLMES 《但丁》彭淮棟譯，台北:聯經， 1984
DANTE VITA NUOVA :A new Translation by Mark Musa, OUP, 1992
*論俗語 (節) 581
PAGE-TURNERMAY 20, 2015
Dante Turns Seven Hundred and Fifty
BY JOHN KLEINER
It’s hard to convey the importance of Dante’s place in Italian culture, but there are many possible explanations for the poet's enduring hold on the country.CREDITIMAGE VIA GETTY
On April 24th, Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy’s first female astronaut, took time off from her regular duties in the International Space Station to read from the Divine Comedy. She picked the opening canto of the Paradiso, in which Dante describes his ascent through the circle of fire and his approach toward God:
I was within the heaven that receives
more of His light; and I saw things that he
who from that height descends, forgets or can
As Cristoforetti spun around the globe at the rate of seventeen thousand miles an hour, her reading was beamed back to earth and shown in a movie theater in Florence.
Ten days later, the actor Roberto Benigni recited the last canto of Paradiso in the Italian Senate. His selection included the poem’s famous closing lines:
Here force failed my high fantasy; but my
desire and will were moved already like
a wheel revolving uniformly by
the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.
The senators gave the comedian a standing ovation. That same day, Pope Francis made some brief remarks about the poet, officially joining what he called the “chorus of those who believe Dante Alighieri is an artist of the highest universal value.” He can, the Holy Father added, help us “get through the many dark woods we come across in our world.”
Dante’s seven-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday is sometime in the coming month—he was born, he tells us in Paradiso, under the sign of Gemini—and, to mark the occasion, well over a hundred events are planned. These include everything from the minting of a new two-euro coin, embossed with the poet’s profile, to a selfie-con-Dante campaign. (Cardboard cutouts of the poet are being set up in Florence, and visitors are encouraged to post pictures of themselves with them using the hashtag #dante750.) There’s talk of extending the celebrations to 2021, the seven-hundredth anniversary of the poet’s death.
I teach Dante to American undergraduates, and I struggle to convey to them his place in Italian culture. The obvious comparison is to Shakespeare, but this is like trying to make sense of Mozart by means of Coltrane: the number of centuries that divide Dante from Shakespeare is practically as large as the number that separates Shakespeare from us.
Italian kids first encounter Dante at school, when they’re in the equivalent of seventh grade. They return to him in the eleventh grade to study the Inferno in more depth. In twelfth grade, they work on the Purgatorio. Secondary school—liceo—lasts five years, and so in what might be considered the thirteenth grade, the text for the year is the Paradiso. I recently asked the high-school-aged son of an Italian friend of mine about the experience. “It’s annoying, boring, and it never ends,” he told me. “But then you get to like it.”
At the college level, the study of Dante ratchets up by slowing down. In the late nineteen-eighties, I spent a semester in Florence, where I sat in on a Dante course at the university. The entire term was devoted to the analysis of a single canto. As it happened, the canto was Inferno 19, which is devoted to simony. Dante reserves a special hole in the third sub-circle of the eighth circle of Hell for corrupt Popes; they are stuffed into it, one after another, headfirst. Their feet are then lit on fire. Among the issues the class discussed at length was how, exactly, new Popes could be accommodated. Had space been left open for all those that would come along? Or did each new arrival compress his predecessor into some kind of pontifical pesto?
Either because of or despite this pedagogical program, Italians, to a surprising degree, stick with Dante. Since 2006, Benigni has been staging hepped-up variations on the traditional lectura dantis, a form that goes back all the way to the fourteenth century, to Boccaccio, who lectured on the poem in Florence’s Santo Stefano church. A typical lectura opens with a detailed gloss of a particular canto, followed by a dramatic reading of it. Benigni’s performances in Rome, Florence, Verona, and other cities have been watched live by more than a million people. Millions more have tuned into them on TV.
Similar, if stodgier, lectures are delivered all over Italy at societies set up expressly to foster appreciation of the Divine Comedy. In Rome, for example, the Casa di Dante sponsors a lectura dantis every Sunday at 11 A.M. Owing to holidays and long summer breaks, six years of Sundays are required to get through the poem, at which point the whole process starts over again. It’s not unusual for two hundred Romans to attend. Some are liceo students, perhaps there under duress, but most are middle-aged and beyond. After one recent session at the Casa di Dante, I asked the white-haired gentleman sitting next to me what everyone was doing there. “I don’t know about the others,” he said. “I always come.”
There are, of course, many possible explanations for Dante’s hold on Italy, including, after seven hundred and fifty years, sheer momentum. Language, too, clearly plays a part. When Dante began work on the Comedy, none of the different dialects spoken in Italy’s many city-states had any particular claim to preëminence. Latin, meanwhile, was the language of the Church and of institutions such as the courts and universities. (Dante wrote “De Vulgari Eloquentia,” his defense of the vernacular, in Latin.) Such was the force and influence of the Comedy that the Tuscan dialect became Italy’s literary language and, eventually, its national one. The fact that people in Venice and Palermo could understand Cristoforetti as she read from the Paradiso in space was due, in a quite literal sense, to the poem that she was reading.
For the last nine months, I’ve been living in Rome, and the experience has helped me to appreciate another, more subversive side to Dante’s appeal. Though he may be force-fed to seventh graders, applauded in the Senate, and praised by the Holy See, Dante is, as a writer, unmistakably anti-authoritarian. He looks around and what he sees is hypocrisy, incompetence, and corruption. And so he strikes out, not just at the Popes, whom he turns upside down and stuffs in a hole, but also at Florence’s political leaders, whom he throws into a burning tomb, and his own teacher, whom he sets running naked across scorching sand.
In 2015, this sort of frustration still feels fresh. Earlier this month the latest World Expo opened in Milan, on the edifying theme of “feeding the planet.” All spring, the papers have been filled with stories of bid-rigging and extortion. Just the other day, the Expo’s procurement manager and six other officials were arrested for graft. “No one should be surprised,” Milan’s Corriere della Sera editorialized. To express their anger over the billions in public funds lavished on Expo, students went on strike and cars were burned in the streets of Milan. It’s hard to know what Dante would have made of flaming Fiats, but it seems likely that he would have sympathized with the protesters: for the abuse of public trust, he prescribed swimming in boiling pitch, and for avarice, an eternity spent rolling stones in circles.
Some Blogs of Hanching Chung
- ► 2017 (449)
- 【金瓶梅詞話】；“The Plum in the Golden Vase,” Translated ...
- Katherine Mansfield ：徐志摩：《曼殊裴兒小說集》；《哀曼殊裴兒》。曼斯菲爾德《園...
- the Selfish Gene
- Henry James：English hours 英國風情; "The Art of Fictio...
- "Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak ；Pasternak 一家；...
- Forewords and Afterwords by W. H. Auden 1973.《序跋集》...
- 塩見直紀： 《半農半X的生活：順從自然，實踐天賦》蘇楓雅譯2006：《半農半X的幸福之路》王蘊潔譯 ...
- Individualism and Economic Order by Friedrich Haye...
- George Orwell : Animal Farm (1945)...George Orwell...
- Frank Dikotter 馮客《毛澤東的大饑荒》(Mao's Great Famine：The ...
- 《懸崖勒馬──美國對台政策與中美關係》 2007 (Rein in at the Brink of ...
- Book of Kells
- All-female cast perform NUDE version of Shakespear...
- 哈代詩選"The Man He Killed"
- "Old Goriot" 高老頭 by Honoré de Balzac
- 但丁750歲了：Dante Turns Seven Hundred and Fifty
- Japan Through The Looking Glass, by Alan Macfarlan...
- 《玻璃的世界》GA: Glass and Architecture 1989, Glass Flow...
- "Rig-Veda", Athara-Veda; Upanishad - 奧義書
- 熊十力 1885-1968
- 瑪麗 安托內特傳：法蘭西悲情王后Marie Antoinette
- ‘Zero K’, by Don DeLillo, book reviews:
- 《字花》；60期；【第52期．光途】；愛香港特刊、【縮骨遮革命．在場者說．韓麗珠 (之二)】《9月3...
- Daphne Du Maurier《蝴蝶夢》（Rebecca）.....
- The Long Search was a 1977 BBC documentary televis...
- Edward Lear： 諧趣詩 Book of Nonsense 、鳥類畫、『未晚齋』
- 源氏物語The tale of Genji 及日本文學專家Edward Seidensticker
- Richard P. Feynman’s blackboard and a poem
- Alexander Pushkin, "Eugene Onegin", Bronze Horsem...
- On Metaphor
- Raymond Carver. THE LITTLE SISTER by Raymond Chand...
- Le Modulor, 現代建築年鑒/邁向建築? Le Corbusier, 1925 Almana...
- 好兵帥克 "The Good Soldier Svejk" by Jaroslav Hašek
- 《夏目漱石漢詩文集》；鄭清茂 【夏目漱石的漢詩】；夏目漱石（なつめ そうせき，Natsume Sou...
- Gordon Tullock 和 James Buchanan《》
- "The Mayor of Casterbridge" By Thomas Hardy《嘉德橋市長》...
- Geoffrey Hartman: The Geoffrey Hartman Reader; 《荒野...
- 讀鄭清茂譯：《輓歌》；《奧之細道》(林文月)/ 紀念吉川幸次郎，感謝鄭清茂：嚼飯增味。平生知己
- For Wallace Stevens, Hartford as Muse 最高虛構筆記The Id...
- 《小說機杼》| 'How Fiction Works,' by James Wood
- Osip Mandelstam 曼德爾施塔姆； Nadezhda Mandelstam娜傑日達·曼德...
- Invasion of the Body Revolutions in Surgery
- 藍博洲《幌馬車之歌 》：鍾浩東與蔣碧玉；藍明谷與藍張阿冬
- ▼ 五月 (52)
- ► 2015 (613)
- ► 2014 (439)
- ► 2013 (347)
- ► 2012 (450)
- ► 2011 (896)
- ► 2010 (503)
- ► 2009 (236)
- ► 2008 (199)